In the winter months fresh produce is typically either expensive and/or unavailable, which often forces us to choose either canned or frozen options.
Canned fruits and vegetables lose a lot of important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients during processing because of the long exposure to the high temperature applied to for the purpose of killing off potentially harmful bacteria. Canned tomatoes are an exception… Lycopene, known for its beneficial role in prevention of prostate cancer, is better absorbed from cooked (i.e. canned) tomatoes as compared to fresh tomatoes.
As a general rule of thumb, frozen produce is equal to, or in many cases more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness (i.e. when they are most nutrient-packed). Contrary, the majority of the fresh produce is picked before its peak ripeness. Fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before their peak ripeness to allow them to ripen during transportation (i.e. fully ripe produce will go bad faster in the grocery store). This in turn gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants.
Some nutrients are better absorbed by the body from frozen produce vs. fresh produce. When fruits and vegetables are frozen, ice crystals often puncture the plant cell walls. This causes a less crunchy texture but also allows for nutrients within the plant cells to be more easily released for absorption once consumed.
Steaming and/or microwaving (vs. boiling) your frozen or fresh produce will also help to prevent loss of water-soluble vitamins and obtain the maximum nutritional benefits.
Most Americans consume less than half of the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Check out www.choosemyplate.gov to find out how many servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for your age and gender category. Any form of fruit or vegetable is better than none at all.